PRAIRIE VIEW, TEXAS, April 03 — In ’20 few events took a C19 depth-hit as hard as the 400H did. But here at the USATF Sprint Summit, the kickoff meet to the federation’s “Journey To Gold — Tokyo Outdoor Series,” Kenny Selmon stepped out as just the fourth man since ’19 ended to crank out a sub-49 time.
Selmon broke to the lead mid-race and hurdled home in a world-leading 48.87, his fastest time since winning the ’18 USATF title as a North Carolina senior. He won from Amere Lattin (49.93) by more than a second.
Says the 24-year-old Georgia native, who earned the No. 8 spot in the World Rankings in ’18, “Oh my gosh, It’s really kind of crazy to just be gone for so long. In 2019 I got hurt, obviously. I ran a little bit but it was pretty plagued with injury. And then in 2020 I switched up coaches and came back to Atlanta and was ready to run. And then COVID happened so that just knocked everything down. So it’s been really nice to come back in that fashion.”
Selmon has worked with veteran elite coach and Georgia Tech assistant Nat Page since the fall of ’19 after two right hamstring tears and a series of compensation injuries limited him to 4 European races in the early summer of that year.
Page, astute followers of the sport will know, was quite a 400 hurdler himself, World Ranking 3 years straight 1989–91 after earning a pair of Rankings in the high jump in ’80 & ’81.
After moving back to Atlanta, Selmon recognized from afar there was a coach nearby who might be a perfect fit. “He was a 400 hurdler, a beast, very, very good, he’s coached incredible athletes, and he’s right here in the smack middle of my hometown,” Selmon reasoned.
Selmon’s dad knew an athlete Page had formerly worked with and made the connection. Page, Selmon says, “was not moving out of the professional circle, but he used to have big, big pro groups and now he kind of has reduced the size of his professional group. But he knew that he wanted to have an athlete on this Olympic team and so he said, ‘Let’s see what we can make happen.’”
Healthy again and now in an Olympic season where there are actual meets to enter, Selmon is enthused about the fruits of his labors so far with Page.
“I mean, knock on wood, I’m feeling really great,” he says, “and it’s been a blessing to be reminded of feeling healthy, because there were so many days for the past two years I was waking up and I’m like, ‘I can’t move. Literally, I just don’t feel like I can run fast again.’ So right now, healthy, strong, I’m ready to keep this thing going.”
His collaboration with Page is, interestingly enough, not Selmon’s first with a coach of elite athletic pedigree. Erstwhile women’s 400 WR holder Kim Batten coached him as an Atlanta prep to a World Youth (U18) bronze in ’13 and the No. 1 High School All-America rating for ’14, Selmon’s senior season.
Nor has the new coaching arrangement fostered a total reinvention of the wheel. Says Selmon, “One thing about becoming a professional is you figure out your strengths and you figure out what you’re good at, and you want to make those as strong as possible and then be good at the rest of it.
“It’s been no secret that I’m just very strong — like how I run. I run very strong and I can finish a race. So we took that and just piled on some just crazy workouts: over-distance stuff, 600s and 800s, mileage, hill work, just so much strength work. I will say I’ve done the most distance that I’ve ever done with Coach Page. Out of all my coaches I’ve never done as much volume as I’ve done with him, which is great.
“So that’s one of the main differences and now we’re kind of just trying to piece it all together. We knew that we were capable of [48.87] and so the way that I ran it, obviously we have a race model and I’m getting my 13-stride pattern down. But we focus on just kind of being strong and being able to maintain a pace, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Triple jumper Alphonso Jordan and Jamaican hurdler Jeanine Williams are the other post-collegians in Page’s group — fine athletes though neither a perfect match for Selmon in training sessions. He is OK with that.
“I’m not foreign to training alone,” Selmon says. “Now, do I prefer having athletes near my side? Yes. At UNC at every practice we had a bunch of dogs, right. We had a lot of quartermilers. And so I do prefer to have people training with me.
“But I will say that after going through my injury, it was nice to kind of stay at my own pace and then progress within my own right. Because sometimes when you have other athletes on your plate next to you and you’re trying to come back from injury and get things back right, you push things too hard and you just don’t realize, ‘I need to take a step back.’
“So it’s really good in some ways. But there are some days where I go into a Monday workout and I’m, ‘OK, I’m about to die by myself.’
“But you know, it has its benefits and it has its disadvantages as well.”
Now eyeing the Miramar, Florida, stop for the next JTG event (April 10) and the Drake Relays (April 24), Selmon says, “Obviously the Big Kahuna is the Olympic Trials in June.”
With elite U.S. 400H races having been an exceedingly rare species for the past year and a half-plus, the crystal ball for Eugene is cloudy, mysterious.
“That is the thing with the hurdles ’cause it’s such a hard race,” Selmon agrees, “kind of like the perfect combination of speed and strength and endurance. So it’s kind of hard to find that mix. But those who do… Rai Benjamin, he’s a good friend of mine and we’ve been racing pretty much our whole lives. He’ll be ready. But I do think the second and third spots are up for grabs.
“There are respectable competitors who will be in the mix for sure, but I do think if I continue on my path and I succeed in what I need to execute, I definitely plan on having a spot on that team.”
JOURNEY TO GOLD #1 MEN’S RESULTS
100(-0.7): 1. Emmanuel Matadi (Lbr) 10.29; 2. Isiah Young (US) 10.35; 3. Mario Burke (Bar) 10.51; 4. Odean Skeen (Jam) 10.55.
200(-0.9): 1. Andrew Hudson (US) 20.90; 2. Matadi 20.97; 3. Brandon Carnes (US) 21.06.
400: 1. Emmanuel Korir (Ken) 46.06; 2. Marcus Chambers (US) 46.12; 3. Rashard Clark (US) 46.21; 4. Quintaveon Poole (US) 46.52.
1500: 1. Isaiah Harris (US) 3:42.63 PR; 2. Craig Nowak (US) 3:43.04; 3. Nanami Arai (Jpn) 3:44.75; 4. Michael Saruni (Ken) 3:50.97.
110H(-0.9): 1. Shane Brathwaite (Bar) 13.82; 2. Ryan Fontenot (US) 14.00.
400H: 1. Kenny Selmon (US) 48.87 (WL);
2. Amere Lattin (US) 49.93; 3. CJ Allen (US) 50.07; 4. Dave Kendziera (US) 51.52; 5. Jordin Andrade (CV) 51.57.
4 x 100: 1. Star Athletics 38.89 (Young, Gatlin, Eaddy, Brown).
4 x 200: 1. Star Athletics 1:22.16 (King, Gatlin, Bednarek, Brown).
PV: all entrants nh—Andrew Irwin (US), Reese Watson (US), Jacob Wooten (US), Tray Oates (US), Carson Waters (US).
LJ: 1. Charles Brown (US) 24-¾ (7.33); 2. Malik Moffett (US) 23-3½ (7.10).
DT: 1. Reggie Jagers (US) 209-0 (63.71); 2. Brian Williams (US) 197-2 (60.10); 3. Alex Rose (AmS) 195-10 (59.70); 4. Duke Kicinski (US) 195-2 (59.50); 5. Kord Ferguson (US) 193-10 (59.08); 6. Colin Quirke (Ire) 181-2 (55.22).
JTG #1 WOMEN’S RESULTS
100(-1.3): 1. Morolake Akinosun (US) 11.26; 2. Gabby Thomas (US) 11.38; 3. Caitland Smith (US) 11.66; 4. Tawanna Meadows (US) 11.70; 5. Tynia Gaither (Bah) 11.71; 6. Kiara Parker (US) 11.74; 7. Leya Buchanan (Can) 11.96.
200: I(-1.4)–1. Thomas 23.04; 2. Akinosun 23.45; 3. Jaide Stepter (US) 23.86; 4. Smith 24.18; 5. Dalilah Muhammad (US) 24.36; 6. Chloe Abbott (US) 24.78.
II(-1.2)–1. Gabrielle Farquharson (US) 24.00; 2. Jessica Beard (US) 24.40; 3. Jasmine Blocker (US) 24.65; 4. Briyahna Desrosiers (US) 24.87.
400: I–1. Beard 52.38; 2. Chrisann Gordon (Jam) 52.47; 3. Stepter 52.54; 4. Raevyn Rogers (US) 53.52; 5. Muhammad 53.77; 6. Abbott 55.97.
II–1. Kaylin Whitney (US) 52.72; 2. Gabby Scott (PR) 53.94; 3. Olivia Baker (US) 54.19; 4. Kendall Baisden (US) 54.40; 5. Blocker 54.72.
1500: 1. Dana Mecke (US) 4:17.14; 2. Molly Sughroue (US) 4:18.72; 3. Kendra Chambers (US) 4:31.41 PR.
100H(-1.4): 1. Cindy Sember (GB) 13.02; 2. Gabriele Cunningham (US) 13.22; 3. Tiffany Porter (GB) 13.23; 4. Ebony Morrison (US) 13.37; 5. Evonne Britton (US) 13.56; 6. Kendell Williams (US) 13.62.
400H: 1. Ashley Spencer (US) 56.36; 2. Shiann Salmon (Jam) 56.90; 3. Gianna Woodruff (Pan) 57.22; 4. Sparkle McKnight (Tri) 57.40; 5. Nnenya Hailey (US) 57.57.
4 x 100: 1. Star Athletics 42.70 (WL, AL) (Johnson, Oliver, Bryant, Richardson);
2. All-Stars 45.94 (Sember’, Cunningham, Smith, Gaither’).
4 x 200: 1. Star Athletics (US) 1:32.64 (Richardson, Oliver, Bryant, Johnson).
4 x 400: 1. USA Blue 3:31.86 (Whitney, Rogers, Chambers, Baker); 2. Hurdle Mechanic (US) 3:33.64 (Abbott, Muhammad, Woodruff’, Hailey); 3. USA Red 3:42.17 (Baisden, Beckles, Farquharson, Mecke).
TJ: 1. Thea Lafond (Dom) 47-1 (14.35); 2. Lynnika Pitts (US) 43-6½ (13.27); 3. Domonique Panton (US) 43-2½ (13.17) PR; 4. Kelly McKee (US) 42-7 (12.98); 5. Thelma Nohemí Fuentes (Gua) 42-6¼ (12.96); 6. Shardia Lawrence (Jam) 41-10 (12.75).
DT: 1. Shadae Lawrence (Jam) 189-6 (57.76); 2. Rachel Dincoff (US) 189-4 (57.72); 3. Kelsey Card (US) 182-1 (55.50); 4. Tatyana Zhuravlyova (Rus) 175-6 (53.51); 5. Chioma Onyekwere (Ngr) 171-11 (52.40).
HT: 1. Brooke Andersen (US) 245-11 (74.96) (f, 240-6, 245-11, f, f, 239-10) (f, 73.31, 74.96, f, f, 73.10); 2. Janee’ Kassanavoid (US) 226-3 (68.96); 3. Whitney Simmons (US) 211-7 (64.50) PR.